It’s important to plan for the future. This is especially true for families who have a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia. If planning is done early, the person with the disease may be able to participate more in the decision making. Planning early can also reduce future stress for the family of the person with the disease. When someone has Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia, legal plans and financial plans are important to put in place.
There are a number of costs you may face as a result for caring for a person with dementia. In order to plan for financial needs during the course of the disease, you’ll need to consider all the costs you might face now and in the future. Some costs may include prescription drugs, personal care supplies, adult day care services, in-home care services and full-time residential care services. You should discuss financial needs and goals early on so that the person with the disease understands the issues and can clarify their wishes. You can receive professional assistance from a financial advisor. Financial advisors can help you identify potential financial resources, identify tax deductions, and avoid poor investment decisions that could deplete your finances. A number of financial resources may be available to help cover costs throughout the course of the disease:
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• Health care coverage
• Long-term care insurance
• Life insurance
• Veterans benefits
• Other public programs: Many states have state-funded, long-term care, including adult day care and respite care
If a person with dementia is able to understand the meaning and importance of a given legal document, they likely have the legal capacity (the ability to understand and appreciate the consequences of his or her actions) to execute (to carry out by signing it). As long as the person with dementia has legal capacity, they should take part in legal planning. Recommended documents include:
• Living will: a document that expresses how a physically or mentally incapacitated person wishes to be treated in certain medical situations. This document is used when the person is irreversibly ill, meaning that further treatment cannot cure the person, or when the person is critically injured and near death.
• Power of attorney: a document that allows a person with dementia (called the principal) to name another individual (called an attorney-in-fact or agent) to make financial and other decisions when they are no longer able.
• Power of attorney for health care: a document that allows a person with dementia to name a health care agent to make health care decisions on his or her behalf when he or she is incapable of doing so. These decisions include choosing doctors and other health care providers, types of treatments, and care facilities.
• Will: a document identifying whom a person with dementia has chosen as executor (the person who will manage the estate) and beneficiaries (the people who will receive the assets in the estate).
• Living trust: another way for the person to give instructions for how their estate should be handled upon death.
• Guardianship/conservatorship: a guardian/conservator is appointed by a court to make decisions about a person’s care and property. It is considered when a person with dementia is no longer able to provide for their own care and either the family is unable to agree upon the type of care needed or there is no family.